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Mathematical breakdown behind Gingrich’s troubles in Florida

Want to know why Newt Gingrich’s campaign is falling apart in Florida? Here are the numbers that tell the story:

The Sayfie Review conducted a survey of likely Republican voters on January 27, 2012 (the day after the CNN debate in Jacksonville), and got some interesting numbers. The poll was conducted by New Frontier Strategy, a GOP public relations firm.

The “headline” results for whom voters prefer matches the trends we’ve seen the past few days:

Presidential Primary 1st Choice Ballot Test    

Romney      38.13%
Gingrich      30.19%
Santorum    14.83%
Paul              9.80%
Undecided    7.06%
Total          100.00%

Also interesting was the high percentage of respondents who had watched the Jacksonville debate, and how poorly they thought Gingrich’s performance was:

Watched CNN Debate    

Yes                 55.51%
No                  44.49%
Total             100.00%

Who Won CNN Debate (of those who watched)

Romney          41.64%
Santorum        26.50%
Gingrich          17.35%
Paul                  8.68%
Undecided        5.84%
Total              100.00%

For a candidate like Gingrich who has based a lot of his messaging on telling the voters that he is the best candidate to debate Barack Obama, this is a brutal result.

Here’s the final piece of the puzzle: what criteria do Florida Republican voters use to make their decision? As I’ve mentioned several times before, the issues that get the conservative blogosphere all excited are not necessarily the same ones on which most voters focus.

Priority in Candidate Selection    

Best chance to beat Obama    57.13%
Best on Economy                    29.94%
Most Conservative                  10.36%
Don’t Know/Refused                 2.57%
Total                                       100.00%

Presidential Primary 1st Choice Ballot Test
By Priority in Candidate Selection

Most Conservative    
Santorum         36.52%
Gingrich           35.65%
Romney           13.04%
Paul                 11.30%
Undecided         3.48%

Best on Economy    
Romney        36.50%
Gingrich        22.85%
Paul              20.77%
Santorum      11.87%
Undecided      8.01%

Best chance to beat Obama    
Romney        44.31%
Gingrich        33.39%
Santorum     12.32%
Paul                3.59%
Undecided      6.40%

As you can see, an overwhelming 87% of likely Republican voters say that their priorities in candidate selection are beating Obama and the economy, and Romney has a significant advantage in both of those categories. See also the poll’s results for most important issues, where again Romney is the favorite choice among the voters’ priorities.

Combine the above data with Romney’s significant infrastructure across the state and head start with absentee and early voters, and that explains why we continue to see polls showing Romney continuing to gain (see here and here).

Further reading:

The New York Times’ The Caucus Blog has a great profile of the Sayfie Review’s Justin Sayfie and his take on the Florida primary

Alex Leary at the Tampa Bay Times interviewed me for this article about the battle between Gingrich and Romney

And in case you missed them, here are two blog posts I wrote last week on the scene in Florida:

Sunshine State Sarah | Florida: “All your primary are belong to us”

Sunshine State Sarah | Novel idea: Florida primary analyzed by actual Floridians!

 

[Cross-posted at Sunshine State Sarah]

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